God Works in the Background

One of the things that comes with the territory of outdoor churches is background noise. It sometimes feels like we can’t go more than 10 minutes in a service without some sort of siren zipping by, motorcycle revving, or other miscellaneous raucous. To be frank, it can be irritating. The pause of a service and the waiting for a siren to fade can often feel like an eternity. I’ve been an intern with Cathedral for several years and tonight was the first night that I recognized that this sound was something sacred. Today an ambulance drove by and I watched a woman in our community cross herself and whisper a short but sincere prayer for whoever was on the receiving end of that ambulance. For once, the noise didn’t seem as irritating as it usually is; it felt holy. It felt like a reminder that our spiritual lives don’t have the luxury of existing outside of our daily “real-world” lives. We live and walk with Jesus while also listening to the noise, dealing with the stress, and being immersed in the constant background cacophony of Life. God interacts with us in a variety of ways – God is present in the bread and the wine of communion, but God is also present in the heart of the EMT who is in that ambulance on their way to serve someone in the best way they know how.

Sometimes wonderful things happen by accident.

Robert Wronski

Cathedral in the Night holds a “coffee hour” every Tuesday at 3:00 at Brueger’s in Northampton.  Since it’s inception, the time and format have evolved as needed, but it has always been a place for the community to come and join together in fellowship.

At one point, we introduced the idea of going around the table, each person sharing their highs and lows of the past week.  Then, at the end of the hour, we would go around the table, each person praying for the person to their right, with a focus on praying for something that person shared regarding their lows for the week.  

The problem was that by the time we got to the end of the hour, we would forget what everyone’s lows were, after an hour of other conversation.  So the solution was to pray immediately after sharing the highs and lows, while it was still fresh in our memory.

There was an unexpected and wonderful side effect to this.  Previously, after people shared their lows, even though it was expressed at the onset that we shouldn’t use the time to try to advice others of how to solve their problems, it would still happen.  There was always someone who would try to impose their wisdom on others, usually with the best of intentions, but often instead ruffling feathers rather than actually helping.  However, once we began praying immediately after sharing our lowpoints, we would pray to leave the solution in God’s hands.

Once we let it go and left it to God, there was no more reason for the “problem solvers” to dwell on what others shared, and we were able to spend the rest of the time on general spiritual discussions involving the community.  This simple shifting of format, while not intentional, eliminated much discord and made for a much more calming fellowship for all.

I Believe.

Leanne Finamore

Every once in a while, I will re-notice the extensive use of “Amen” in Christianity. We say it at the end of the prayers, we hear it in church, and we read it throughout the bible. Every few years, when this observation comes back into my consciousness, I have to re-consider what “Amen” means, and more importantly, what it means to me. So, a few days ago, I figured I would look it up. According to Wikipedia, “Amen” is a declaration of affirmation or agreement. However, it has a couple of translations. Literally translated, it means, “So be it!” or “It is so!”2, but the translation that I learned as a child and that resonates most with me is “I believe.”

It is a tough thing to think about: the words “I believe.” Do “I believe”? If so, what do I believe? I will be one of the first ones to admit that sometimes, and probably more often than not, I don’t know what I believe. Well, does that mean I shouldn’t say the word “amen”? Perhaps. But maybe not. Maybe it is possible to believe, even if we don’t know exactly what it is that we believe. 

I have a lot of questions about the bible, about Jesus, and about God. Many of those questions could even be called serious doubts. But when I participate in ministries and communities such as Cathedral in the Night, my questions become less important and I am reminded why I believe. Cathedral in the Night is an “outdoor church” on the sidewalk of Northampton, MA.  Because Cathedral is on the street, it has a unique way of being completely inclusive. There are no qualifications you must have (or think that you must have) to walk through the door, because there are no doors. So, when I come to Cathedral, my questions and doubts don’t disappear, but they no longer become the crux of “I believe”.  I still can’t tell you what I believe. I cannot tell you whether I think God is male or female or neither. I cannot tell you who I think Jesus is. But I can tell you that I believe in what happens at Cathedral in the Night. I believe in the space of unconditional acceptance that is created at Cathedral, so that I can come to church at Cathedral even if I am an atheist one week and a Christian the next; whether I have $5 in my pocket or I don’t have pockets. I believe in Cathedral, because even though I don’t know who or what God is, I know, that God is there. Because I see God in every single person at Cathedral in the Night and I experience God as I talk with these people and get to know them. Even when I don’t know what I believe, the unconditional acceptance and community that is created at Cathedral in the Night is one of the reasons why I believe. It is why I say “Amen.”

1 Wikipedia contributors, "Amen," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Amen&oldid=530949850(accessed January 5, 2013).

2 Amen. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/amen?s=t(accessed: January 05, 2013).


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